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  • Rebecca Bianco

The week of Passover

Passover is a Jewish celebration that takes place every year to remember the time when the Jews escaped slavery in Egypt after a thousand years.

According to the biblical story about Moses, he was set adrift in a basket, by his mother Yocheved, in the Nile. He reached the palace of the Pharoah and the Pharaoh's wife and Ramases, their young son, were swimming and sunbathing by the Nile when the basket drifted towards them. The Pharaoh's wife wanted another child but unfortunately couldn't have one so she decided to take in the Jewish boy and from that day onward he was known as Moses the Prince of Egypt. He grew up surrounded by luxury and anything he wished for, until one night when the young princes' parents hosted a banquet and the main priests presented them a young girl named Zsipporah from Midian, a place in the desert where the free Jews lived. That evening Moses felt bad for Zsipporah and decided to help her escape, in the process he encountered his real siblings, Miriam and Aaron. Miriam tried to convince him that he isn’t a prince of Egypt but rather their younger brother who was born of their Jewish mother who was a slave. He soon realised they were right and ran away to the desert where he found Zsipporah and her family, a few years later he married her. Not long later, as he was out on the mountains with his sheep, a lamb ran away and Moses ran after him only to discover a burning bush. It was God, who told Moses he had to go back to Egypt to free his people from slavery. Moses listened to him and returned with his wife. Ramases, who was now the Pharaoh, refused to let them go and had doubled their work load as a punishment. Moses did not stop there though, he kept going back to plead with Ramases to free his people. When everything else failed, God decided to send the Deadly Plague, where the Egyptians cattle died, their food rotted in their mouths, there wasn’t any water and whenever they tried to sleep there would be roaches in their beds and the Egyptians were covered in boils. Finally after even all that failed and hundreds of innocent Egyptians died, God told the Jewish people to paint their front doors with a stripe of blood from a freshly killed sheep, those who didn’t would wake up with their first born dead, this was the “cry that has never been heard and never will be heard again”, because of Pharaoh's selfishness he lost his son in the process, that was his final straw and after that tragedy he let Moses and his people leave. Moses had led the now free Jews across the desert all the way to the Red Sea until they heard horses and sound of the Egyptian soldiers. They had nowhere to go, on one side was the sea and on the other slavery. They were panicking until Moses heard God's voice telling him to take the staff in his hand and put it in the water, Moses did as he was told and a miracle happened, the sea split giving the Jews a safe path across. They started running across the sea with the Egyptians hot on their heels. When Moses and his people were safely across, the sea started closing in on the soldiers leaving them behind forever. The Hebrews were free. Moses went up Mount Sinai and retrieved the 10 commandments from God which Jews follow to this day.

Unfortunately, after being slaves for so long, it was impossible for a lot of them to believe they were free and had nothing to fear anymore so Moses wandered with them for 40 years to get them used to being free people before moving to Canaan. On Passover, or Pesach, Jews remember the suffering the Jews back then underwent so that Jews today would be free by fasting. We can’t eat wheat because as the Jews were wandering the desert after just having left Egypt, they didn’t have any food as they didn’t have time to make any, they just had flour and water and out of that God made bread for them to eat. Jews don’t eat rice, corn, soy, chickpeas or as already mentioned, wheat for an entire week. This specific fast only applies to Ashkenaz Jews though, Sephardic Jews have it easier, they’re allowed to eat rice and most of the things Ashkenaz can’t except of course, wheat. Instead of bread we eat something called Matzo, it’s flour and water made into crunchy squares that must be baked for exactly 18 minutes, no more and no less otherwise it is no longer Kosher.

The date of Pesach varies as the Hebrew calendar depends mostly on the moon.

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